Mullumbimby floods drown a chapter of Australia’s battery storage history

Floods battery storage mullumbimby

The scenes in Mullumbimby and more than a dozen surrounding towns and villages in northern NSW are devastating. In Mullum, nearly every house in every street has almost its entire contents piled on to the roadside – furniture, personal items, white goods and cars destroyed by last weekend’s floods.

The response by the community has been awesome, but for many it will take weeks, months or even years to repair the damage to homes, infrastructure, livelihoods and emotions.

James Sturch, from SolarEdge, considers himself to be one of the lucky ones. The top floor and living area of his old Queenslander was untouched, but the ground floor was devastated – along with his laundry, his workshop, his two electric cars, and a history of battery storage.

First to the EVs – they don’t do well in floods. Sturch had a year old Nissan Leaf and had just taken delivery of a new MG ZS EV. It had just 50kms on the clock. He knew flooding was possible, and took the precaution of jacking up the EVs to above the previous flood level of 2017.

All to no avail, because the 2022 flood came in nearly 1.5 metres higher at his place.

Thew flood waters came up above the EV charger to just below the power point.

The two EVs were destroyed and had to be mounted on trolleys and dragged out of the garage (you can’t push an EV that is not functioning,) before they were towed away to a corn field near Ballina where they will join an estimated 10,000 cars destroyed by these floods.

That was hard enough, and EVs can be replaced – in theory at least, because the supply chain problems in Australia mean a huge wait just now.

What also pained Sturch was the 96kWh of battery storage he also lost. Yes, 96kWh in a single house. His ground floor and workshop have acted like a testing ground for new products for Sonnen, where he used to work, and now for SolarEdge, his current employer (his title is “technical director, rest of world.”

It also served as a chapter in the battery storage history book. His array included the first model ever installed in Australia – a Sonnen Eco 6, and two Sonnen 8.2s – which Sturch says were the second and third Sonnen batteries installed in the country.

Also destroyed was an LG Prime, a brand new (and first of its type in Australia) 16kWh battery storage with SolarEdge communications and software (in pic above on the other side of air con unit) Another two SolarEdge batteries and the first SolarEdge EV charger in Australia were also ruined.

“It’s devastating,” Sturch told RenewEconomy after we turned up to help him take the destroyed units off the wall – some of them weighing 100kgs or more – and on to the growing roadside pile.

“But I guess it does allow me to start over.” SolarEdge is releasing its new battery storage product this week. Stay tuned.


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